Category Archives: Good News

New Desert Energy Plan is Good News for Wildlife

Kim Delfino, California Director for Defenders of Wildlife and alumna of my law school, has written the post below, explaining the implications of the very important new Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. It’s a must-read!

One of the rarest sightings in the California desert is not what you think it might be. It is not the appearance of water, the presence of a desert tortoise emerging from its burrow, or even the spying of the mysterious mountain lion. It is the sighting of a Mohave ground squirrel above ground.

These elusive mammals spend perhaps two months of their lives above ground when conditions are right, and they can only be found in the West Mojave Desert of California. Unfortunately, the sighting of the Mohave ground squirrel is becoming rarer as their habitat is lost to energy development, industrial development and other land-intensive development and their population shrinks. The specter of large-scale renewable energydevelopment is the latest potential threat to the survival of this state-protected species.

Mohave ground squirrel, © Dr. Phil Leitner

Several years ago, the fate of the ground squirrel – along with other desert wildlife – hung in the balance as hundreds of thousands of acres of desert lands were proposed for industrial renewable energy development. Fortunately, California and the Department of the Interior joined together to propose a new approach to energy development – a landscape scale look across the California Desert to determine where projects could be placed on already disturbed and degraded lands, while protecting those areas most important for desert wildlife, recreation, and other natural resources. This new approach started with the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States (Solar PEIS), but was significantly expanded in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).

The DRECP represents a paradigm shift in how renewable energy development is planned in California and nationally. If done well, the DRECP could mean that desert wildlife like the tortoise and the ground squirrel have a future even in the face of climate change.

This week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new part of the plan that addresses how and where different types of land will be used for renewable energy. It is an important step forward for the DRECP, and is expected to be finalized in early 2016.

There is a lot to celebrate in the BLM’s latest plan. It protects 3.8 million acres of lands with important natural resource, scenic and recreational values by designating them as part of the National Landscape Conservation System. Iconic areas such as the Silurian Valley, Chuckwalla Bench and the Amargosa River watershed are designated as National Conservation Lands. Most importantly, these protections are permanent and cannot be overturned in the future.

desert tortoise Joshua Tree, ©Phil & Loretta Hermann

The plan also includes 388,000 acres of BLM lands in the desert where renewable energy projects can be built without significant impacts to wildlife. These projects will help California meet its aggressive climate change goals without putting vital wildlife habitat under development.

So, is the new plan a win for desert wildlife conservation? Should we celebrate the conservation of desert tortoise and Mohave ground squirrel for future generations?

Not yet. While the latest plan has some important benefits, there are still pieces of it that are damaging to wildlife, and must be improved when the BLM issues its final plan in early 2016. The fate of the West Mojave hangs in the balance.

Continue reading New Desert Energy Plan is Good News for Wildlife

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ReWilding Endangered Black-Footed Ferrets in Colorado

More good news from northern Colorado! I recently posted a story about the return of wild bison to Colorado for the first time in over a century. Now, 30 black-footed ferrets, an endangered species once so rare that only 18 of them remained in the wild, have been returned to a 1,300 acre prairie dog colony north of Fort Collins.

They will join the over 500 other ferrets that have been reintroduced into the wild since they almost went extinct in the 1960s. They are still critically endangered, but they are on the rebound!

This National Geographic video is a short and sweet story about these very ferrets. Thanks to Gordon Eaglesham for sharing it on his blog.

Read about these and other good wildlife recovery efforts at Defenders of Wildlife blog.

[Image downloaded from Wikipedia.]

Neurotoxic Chemical to Be Banned from Farm Use

Chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that has been shown to cause brain damage in children, including reduced IQ, delayed development, and memory loss, will be banned under a newly proposed EPA rule. Strong scientific evidence shows that adults are also poisoned by this chemical, whose use in the home has been banned since 2000. Now the EPA has finally responded to a 2007 court order to evaluate the possibility of banning chlorpyrifos altogether.

It will now be prohibited from use on agricultural fields. As a result, it must no longer show up as a residue on food, drift to populated locations, such as schools and homes, or contaminate drinking water.

The EPA will receive comments on this proposed rule until January 5, 2016. After that date, it will finalize the rule and its provisions will go into effect. You can comment on the proposed rule here.

Read more at Earthjustice here.

“The Devil,” East Africa’s Most Wanted Elephant Poacher, Arrested

Known as the “The Devil” by law enforcement who conducted a year-long manhunt for him, Boniface Matthew Mariango was arrested in Tanzania a few days ago. East Africa’s most prolific elephant poacher and illegal ivory trafficker, Mariango was responsible for thousands of elephant deaths.

Earlier last month, task force members of the National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit were also able to arrest “The Queen of Ivory,” Yang Fenglan, who was responsible for a worldwide network of illegal ivory exports. The Devil was her major supplier; he also supplied weapons and vehicles to his own network of poachers. Having these two major players in custody, along with commitments by the U.S. and China to ban ivory, should lead to major breakthroughs in international ivory trafficking.

A documentary film crew was embedded with the task force and will be releasing a film about the manhunt for the Queen of Ivory and The Devil next year.

View the Elephant League post here.

Kawela Bay on Oahu Permanently Protected

A gorgeous surf spot, Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point, on Oahu’s North Shore has been saved from development. The North Shore Community Land Trust, working with the state of Hawaii and the Trust for Public Land, were able to conserve 630 acres of stunning coastline. In addition to protecting a beautiful bay, the move will also protect important habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green sea turtles.

The land trust’s director notes that they want to protect about 60,000 more acres on Oahu, of which 20,000 are for sale right now.

The article below also highlights the important work other land trusts are doing on the mainland to protect surf spots, calling out the Peninsula Open Space Trust near Mavericks and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation south of Santa Cruz in California, as well as the North Florida Land Trust on the Atlantic coast.

Read more at Surfline here.

Germany Expected to Reach 33% Renewable Energy This Year

A world leader in switching to renewable energy, Germany is expected to reach 33% this year. Relying on solar, wind, and other renewable sources to supply about a quarter of its energy last year, Germany has brought online much more wind energy this year.

Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world, after only the U.S., China, and Japan. This means that any move it makes is of global importance.

I also posted recently about how Morocco is set to become the world’s solar superpower, with plans to eventually export power to Europe and maybe even the middle East. The world is changing!

Read the Clean Technica post here.

How Norway Saved (and is Rebuilding) Its Vast Forests

A century ago, Norway’s forests were overharvested and on the decline after centuries of logging for firewood and timber (much of it exported to other European nations). Now, the forest has three times the trees it did 100 years ago, and Norway’s annual tree growth offsets 60% of its carbon emissions (as trees are nature’s best carbon dioxide filters). How has Norway accomplished this? By smart forest planning.

The nation harvests only 50% of its annual tree growth each year. This means that the forests are increasing in size. New policies such as preventing livestock from grazing in harvested areas, which prevents regrowth, as well as an aggressive tree-planting scheme, have contributed to the success.

Challenges remain. Critics complain that Norway is not managing its forests for biodiversity, but is treating them like tree plantations instead. Only a very small percentage of Norwegian forests are protected in national parks and so forth. In addition, far northern climates like Norway’s are among the fastest-warming in the new global climate era. It remains to be seen how well Norway’s trees will adapt to a warmer climate.

I recently posted a story about how Norway is due to complete payment of $1 billion to Brazil for its incredible work in reducing deforestation of the Amazon. What a smart country.

Read more at the BBC here.